Downtown San Diego’s craft beer scene is active and diverse. There are seven craft breweries, several annual beer festivals, growler fill tap rooms, bottle shops, and hip craft beer bars. And they are growing in number.
Geographically, San Diego is huge, and so is San Diego County. Together they have over 130 micro-breweries scattered about from the Pacific Ocean to the Laguna Mountains, and from the border with Mexico to the border with Orange County to the north. Some of the world’s best beers are brewed in San Diego County.
But if you’re looking for brewery-fresh beer made in downtown San Diego, there are only seven places to go. Here are my favorite craft brewery destinations when I’m downtown:
Karl Strauss Brewing
Right next to The W Hotel and just blocks away from San Diego Station and Broadway Pier, upscale Karl Strauss brewpub is comfortable and hip. Lots of professionals come here for lunch, dinner, and to relax with a beer after work. The food is a bit pricey, but delicious and worth the cost. The beers are famous for being consistently of high quality.
This is San Diego’s first microbrewery, opening in 1989. In addition to their flagship craft beers, Karl Strauss also produces seasonal brews, such as their Double Chocolate Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, which I reviewed here.
The Beer Company
Monkey Paw Brewpub
This small brewpub on the eastern edge of downtown has great craft beer and delicious pub food. In addition to offering a variety of beer styles from local craft breweries such as Stone and Pizza Port, Monkey Paw pours tasty and interesting brews of their own. Beers like the thick Monkey Paw Faction Satisfaction (Russian Imperial Stout) and sessionable Stumble South Saison would be reason alone to go there.
Then there are experimental beers like Same Day XPA, reviewed here, to entice you. Plus, their food is famously delicious with locals, as I can personally attest. They serve authentic Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, and I once enjoyed a Wild Boar taco that was amazing. A visit here is a must for any craft beer enthusiast. You are worthy of Monkey Paw!
Visiting craft beer drinkers head over to Mission Brewery after Padre games at Petco Park and events at the convention center. Housed in the historic Wonder Bread building, Mission’s brews have character, much like the building where they are brewed. The tasting room is adjacent to the brew house, where both are surrounded by tall walls of old brick and protected by hefty wood beamed trusses.
Mission brews a whole line up of craft beers, including tasty seasonals such as the Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout, reviewed here. They also are known for their hard root beer.
Half Door Brewing
Half Door refurbished an old San Diego house into a beautiful gem of a brewpub. They are located a city block from Petco Park, and from their upstairs top deck you can look right into the beautiful stadium. Also upstairs is a large window through which you can admire the 10-barrel brewing system where they make all their beer.
Downstairs is another deck, and inside is the cozy Irish pub-themed and decorated tasting room. Half Door pours popular house-brewed beers styles (I reviewed their Half Door Pale Ale), many of which are perfect for pairing with their comfort food pub dishes. Look for suggested beer and food pairings printed on the menu.
Resident Brewing at The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole
Resident Brewing Company teamed up with The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole, one of my favorite bars in downtown San Diego, when the latter was remodeled last year. The arrangement is quite unique, in that the brewery and tasting room are operating independently inside the bar/restaurant.
Located at the corner of 4th and C, Resident Brewing is the sixth brewery to open in downtown San Diego. It is a welcome addition to the small cluster. The brewery tasting room is at the back of The Local, right beside the 10-barrel brewhouse which faces C Street.
Knotty Brewing at Knotty Barrel Gastropub
Located in San Diego’s East Village neighborhood on the corner of 9th and Market, Knotty Barrel recently celebrated an anniversary (5 years in May) with a beautiful expansion and addition of an in-house brewery. The restaurant and brewery are three blocks from Petco Park. Their focus is on fresh and locally-sourced food and a relationship with craft beer. The vibe is fun, relaxing, and unpretentious.
In a new game room adjoining the bar area there are more tables and chairs, darts, and more TVs. Some of the tables have game tops, and folding windows open onto Market Street and an outside patio.
Out back is Knotty’s Backyard, a new, dog-friendly outdoor space with xeriscape landscaping, its own bar, and a fire pit. It is a great addition to the restaurant and a perfect place to enjoy San Diego’s temperate weather.